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M. L. Forman

“Oh, sorry, have you been waiting long?” Alex questioned.
“Couldn’t you have delivered the message to me inside my bag?”
“You can’t enter magic bags?”
“Ding. Honk.”
Alex thought for a moment, trying to understand the conflicting answers. “You can enter a magic bag, but only if I give you permission to do so?” he ventured.
“Then I give all geebs permission to enter either of my magic bags to deliver and take messages from me,” said Alex.
“Do you have a message for me today?”
“May I have it, please?”
“Ding.” The geeb produced a large envelope.
Alex recognized Whalen Vankin’s handwriting on the envelope, and he quickly tore it open to read the letter inside.
Dear Alex,
I’ve been invited to join a new adventure in Thraxon but find that I don’t have the time. I’ve suggested to the leader of this adventure that you might be willing to take my place. If so, please meet the leader tomorrow morning at ten o’clock at Mr. Clutter’s shop.
I don’t know all the details of this adventure, so if, after your meeting, you don’t like the sound of it, don’t go. After all, it’s an invitation and not a demand. I would, however, ask that you let me know what you decide regarding the adventure, and, that, if you go, you keep me updated as to your progress.
Yours in fellowship,
P.S. The council was very impressed when I told them about your staff. We are considering it as your fifth great wizarding task.
P.P.S. I know we talked about your coming to live in Alusia, and I’ve found a wonderful place for you, if you are still interested. Think about it, and let me know.
Excitement flooded through Alex. This was an opportunity to go back to the magical lands that had become an important part of his life—a chance to explore a new place, meet new friends, and hopefully reunite with some of his old friends. He felt honored that Whalen had suggested him as a replacement, and he hoped the adventure would be an interesting one.
He had a different feeling, though, when he read the second P.S. The idea of living in Alusia made him nervous and happy. Whalen had mentioned the possibility after Alex’s last adventure, but Alex had thought it would be some time before anything actually happened.
The geeb dinged loudly, interrupting his thoughts.
“Sorry,” said Alex, looking at the geeb. “Have you been paid?”
“Waiting for an answer, then, are you?”
“All right, hang on a minute.”
Grabbing some paper, Alex quickly wrote a note to Whalen. He said that he would be happy to meet the leader of this new adventure and at least listen to what he had to say. He also thanked Whalen for suggesting him and promised to send updates if he accepted the adventurer’s bargain. He hesitated for a moment and then added that he would need to think about the move to Alusia but that he’d let Whalen know as soon as he’d decided.
“Can you take this to Whalen Vankin?” Alex asked, holding the letter out for the waiting geeb to take.
“Ding,” the geeb answered and accepted the letter.
“And here is your payment for my reply,” added Alex, tossing a fair-sized diamond in the air.
“Ding.” The geeb caught the diamond in midair and then produced several gold and silver coins as change.
With a small popping sound, the geeb disappeared, leaving Alex alone to consider Whalen’s letter. Alex wanted to tell his stepfather what was happening and ask for his advice about moving to Alusia, but it was already late, and Mr. Roberts was probably in bed. The conversation would have to wait until morning.
“But you’ve only been back two months,” said Mr. Roberts the next morning when Alex told him about the adventure. “Most adventurers take at least three to six months off between adventures, sometimes even longer.”
“Yes, but I’m not just an adventurer anymore,” said Alex.
“True, true,” said Mr. Roberts. “I suppose wizards aren’t normal adventurers. I’m just worried you might be doing too much. Back-to-back adventures, and plans to move to Alusia? That’s a lot to deal with, even for a wizard.”
“I’m sure Whalen knows what he’s doing,” said Alex. “I feel ready for a new adventure, but if this adventure doesn’t sound good, I won’t go. I can wait awhile before deciding about Alusia.”
“I don’t want you thinking you have to move just because Vankin suggested it,” said Mr. Roberts. “You’ve got a lot going on, Alex. Whatever you do, make sure it is something you want to do, and then make sure that you are ready to do it.”
“I’ll be fine,” said Alex. “And I’ll try not to overdo anything.”
“All right, then,” said Mr. Roberts. “And if you do decide to move to Alusia, you’ll always be welcome here—even if you just need a place to rest for a time.”
“Thank you,” said Alex with more feeling than he’d ever said it before.
After breakfast, Alex left his stepfather’s tavern and headed to Mr. Clutter’s adventure shop. He knew he’d be early for his appointment, but he wanted some time to talk with Mr. Clutter before meeting the leader of this new adventure.
“Back so soon, Master Taylor?” questioned Mr. Clutter as Alex entered the shop.
“I was asked to come,” said Alex. “Master Vankin has asked me to stand in for him and at least listen to the leader of a new adventure.”
“Oh, yes, of course,” said Mr. Clutter. “But I’m sorry to say that the leader of that particular adventure has just gone in with someone else, so they might be awhile.”
“I’m a bit early,” said Alex, checking the clock on Mr. Clutter’s wall. “I was hoping you might have a few minutes to tell me what other adventures are getting started right now.”
“Other adventures?” Mr. Clutter questioned. “But if you’ve been asked to go on this one . . .”
“I’ve been asked, but I’m not sure I’ll be going,” said Alex. “I thought it would be a good idea to see what else is happening, just in case.”
“Ah, sound wisdom, that,” said Mr. Clutter. “I’ll fix some tea and we can have a chat. Unless, of course, you’d like something besides tea?”
“Whatever you have will be fine,” answered Alex.
Mr. Clutter hurried from the room, but was back almost immediately, carrying his large silver tea set. He started talking about adventures even before he’d seated himself behind the counter.
Alex was used to the way Mr. Clutter often carried on, and he sat back and listened to everything the adventure salesman had to say.
“Oh, now that’s odd,” Mr. Clutter said as he shuffled through some papers.
“What’s that?” Alex questioned.
“Ah, well, an adventure has been requested, but with a high level of secrecy attached to it,” said Mr. Clutter in a slightly nervous tone. “Not that being secretive is so strange.”
“No, I’m sure a lot of adventures are that way,” said Alex.
“Exactly. No, the odd thing is that the requester is asking that no one from Thraxon be told about this adventure. Now that seems very odd to me, as Thraxon is where the adventure is going to take place.”
“That is strange,” said Alex. “But as I’m not from Thraxon, could you tell me as much as you can?”
But before Mr. Clutter could say much about the adventure, a familiar voice interrupted them.
“I’m sure you’ll like the rest of our company,” the voice said from the back of the shop. “A good group so far, and I have great hopes that our seventh member will be a wizard.”
“I’m sure the group will be fine,” answered a second voice.
Alex recognized the first voice as his friend Thrang, and he wondered why Whale
n hadn’t told him that the dwarf would be leading the adventure.
“All settled, then?” asked Mr. Clutter as Thrang emerged from behind the curtains. “Anything else you need?”
“We are all set, thank you,” said Thrang, turning to look at Mr. Clutter and spotting Alex instead. “Alex! I mean, Master Taylor. So good to see you again.”
“No need to be so formal,” Alex laughed, moving forward to shake Thrang’s hand but getting a bear hug instead.
“Well now, as you’re here, allow me to introduce Mistress Katrina Dayyed,” said Thrang, nodding to the young woman who’d followed him through the curtains. “She goes by Kat, and she comes from Barkia. Kat, allow me to present my friend, Master Alexander Taylor.”
“The wizard,” Kat said, bowing to Alex.
“A pleasure,” said Alex, returning the bow. He couldn’t help but notice the faint glow of magic around her.
“Well,” said Thrang, looking quickly from Kat to Alex and back. “I suppose I should explain this adventure to Master Taylor, then.”
“As you wish,” said Alex.
“I will see you in Telous,” Kat said to Thrang. “I have much to do before this adventure begins.”
“Yes, yes, of course,” said Thrang, bowing slightly as Kat left the shop. He turned to Alex. “Now then, Alex. Shall we?”
“After you.”
Thrang led Alex to the hidden rooms at the back of the shop. They both settled into the comfortable chairs.
“So, tell me about your staff and everything that’s happened since we parted company,” Thrang said.
“The adventure first,” said Alex. “We will have time to catch up after.”
“As you wish,” Thrang said, stroking his beard. He paused to gather his thoughts. “This adventure is a quest to recover the Ring of Searching, which has been lost for almost two thousand years.”
“Two thousand years?” Alex repeated in surprise.
“I really shouldn’t say lost,” said Thrang. “The owner of the ring didn’t lose it, after all. And two thousand years sounds like a long time, but to dwarfs it’s only, oh, ten generations—more like two hundred years to humans.”
“I never thought of it like that,” said Alex. “So, why do we need to look for this ring if it isn’t really lost?”
“A good question,” said Thrang. “Albrek, the ring’s owner, is who we are really searching for. Well, the tomb of Albrek would be even more correct. You see, Albrek was a great dwarf lord. In fact, because of the Ring of Searching and its ability to find new mines, Albrek was one of the richest dwarf lords.”
“Find new mines?”
“Of course,” said Thrang with a grunting laugh. “You can only mine in one place for so long before the mine runs out of whatever is in it. Albrek’s ring was used to find new mines—the best mines. Albrek went looking for new mines about two thousand years ago and he hasn’t been seen since. Now the primary mines of Thraxon are beginning to dry up, and King Thorgood—the ruler of the dwarf realm of Thraxon—wants the ring to find new mines.”
“Surely your people can find mines without the ring,” said Alex.
“Of course we can,” said Thrang. “But it takes a lot of work and only about one in twenty mines found that way is a really good mine.”
“I see,” said Alex, considering everything Thrang had told him. “Do you have any idea where the tomb of Albrek might be?”
“Details are a bit sketchy, to be honest, but we know the three places that Albrek had planned to look for new mines. Of those three, we’ve narrowed it down to the best one. Of course, he may have looked somewhere else, but at least we have a starting point.”
“How many adventurers are going on this quest?”
“Seven,” Thrang answered. “Including our friend, Arconn. I’ve also talked King Osrik into letting young Thrain come with us. You’ve already met Kat, of course. And I believe you met Master Nellus on your last adventure.”
“It seems there is only one adventurer left for me to meet,” said Alex, laughing. “Though I don’t know Nellus very well, and I only just met Kat.”
“That may be,” laughed Thrang, “but I’m guessing you know more about her than most would even after so short a meeting.”
“Yes,” said Alex, remembering the magical aura he’d sensed around her. “Kat is a seer. I think she will be very helpful on your adventure.”
“You sound as if you’re not coming along,” said Thrang, worried.
“I haven’t decided yet. I haven’t heard about the agreement, yet, and Whalen advised me to think carefully before agreeing to anything.”
“Master Vankin is most wise,” said Thrang. “It was out of respect for him that I asked him to join our quest, but I am happy he passed the request on to you.”
“Then the agreement, if you please,” said Alex.
“Since you are a wizard and a warrior, I can offer you five shares in twenty-two,” said Thrang, sounding concerned that Alex might not agree. “The primary treasure for this quest is not set. King Thorgood has promised one-tenth of all profits from all new mines found with the ring within the first five years.”
“That could be a huge amount of treasure,” said Alex, stunned by the generous offer.
“Yes, it could,” said Thrang with a nod. “And there’s a good chance of secondary treasure as well. Anything we find along the way or in Albrek’s tomb is ours to keep. We will divide all secondary treasure equally between the company.”
“And how will the primary treasure be paid?” Alex questioned. “I mean, how will Thorgood deliver so much treasure over five years?”
“That is a bit of a problem,” Thrang admitted. “Thorgood has agreed to either deliver each member’s share to Telous on a yearly basis or to hold their shares in Thraxon for them. And, remember, the payment isn’t just for five years, it’s for a share of all the mines found in the first five years after the Ring of Searching is returned. The mines will likely produce for several hundred years, probably much longer than that, so the shares will be delivered to named heirs for as long as the mines remain active.”
Alex thought for a long time before speaking. The amount of treasure they were talking about was almost beyond reason. He didn’t really need any more treasure, but he did wonder about Thorgood’s arrangements. There was also something else about Thraxon he wanted to know, something to do with the secret adventure Mr. Clutter had mentioned, but he decided that now wasn’t the right time to ask, and the thought slipped to the back of his mind.
“Very well,” said Alex. “Before I agree, I must ask something of you.”
“If it is in my power, I will do whatever you ask,” said Thrang in a serious tone.
“I still carry five lost bags. One of the heirs lives in Thraxon, or so the bag maker told me. I would like to return the bag to the lost adventurer’s heir if I can.”
Thrang nodded solemnly. “We will make time for that noble deed. Do you know where the heir lives?”
“In the city of Kazad-Syn,” said Alex. “Do you know it?”
“I do,” said Thrang. “Kazad-Syn is one of the largest dwarf cities in Thraxon. We will almost certainly pass through it on our quest. You will easily be able to return the bag.”
“Then you had best show me where to sign,” said Alex. “Then we can go to Telous, and I can answer all your questions about my latest adventure.”
“Wonderful,” said Thrang. “I am pleased and proud that you’ll be coming with us.”
Alex signed the agreement. He was excited to be going on another adventure and happy that so many of his friends would be joining him. Thrang led Alex back to Mr. Clutter’s office, handed Mr. Clutter the signed agreement, and asked him to file it for him.
“Another adventure is under way, ” Mr. Clutter said happily.
“Which way, then?” Thrang asked, cutting off Mr. Clutter before he could get going.
“The back door, I think. Unless, of course, you’d rather use the wardrobe.”< />
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“The back door will be fine,” Thrang said quickly. “The wardrobe always ruins my appetite.”
“Very well, then,” said Mr. Clutter, moving to the back of his shop to open the door for them. “I wish you the best of luck. I’m sure you will find success.”
“Thank you,” said Thrang with a bow as he stepped through the doorway.
Alex didn’t say anything, but simply smiled at Mr. Clutter before following Thrang. Almost instantly, he was standing in a green field just outside of Telous. He took a deep breath of fresh air and almost burst into laughter. It was time to start a new adventure.
Chapter Two
So, you’ve taken your staff,” said Thrang as he and
Alex walked toward Telous.
“Whalen thought I should,” Alex said with a shrug, “so I did, though I must admit, I wasn’t as sure as Whalen was.”
“If Whalen Vankin thinks you’re ready for a staff, you’re ready,” Thrang said matter-of-factly. “Old Vankin knows more than most.” He sighed. “Halfdan told me a little about your last adventure. I wish I’d been able to go with you.”
“How is your cousin Halfdan?” Alex questioned. “Why isn’t he coming along on this adventure?”
“Halfdan’s taking my place as minister.” Thrang laughed. “Somebody had to take over the trade agreements with Vargland, after all.”
“And is he happy about that?” Alex asked, remembering how Halfdan had laughed at the thought of Thrang as a minister.
“Not really. He’ll be in charge of the trade expedition and all the details, which he is nervous about. Still, the job will be good for him, I think—teach him a bit of responsibility. And he will get to travel to Vargland, which will make him happy.”
Alex and Thrang talked as they continued to walk. Thrang seemed completely happy to discuss the business in the dwarf realms and didn’t ask Alex about himself or his new status as a true wizard. Alex was relieved because that meant he could answer all of his friends’ questions at one time when they reached the Golden Swan.

Albrek's Tomb by M. L. Forman / Fantasy / Young Adult / Actions & Adventure have rating

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